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How to Plan a 12-Day Trip in Japan and South Korea

By Vicky LengUpdated Nov. 27, 2023

With anime and K-pop becoming more and more popular, visiting Japan and South Korea has become a dream trip for many children. If you're considering a trip to celebrate your child's birthday or graduation, Japan and South Korea would definitely exceed your family's expectations.

These two destinations also attract many insightful travelers to gain insights into East Asia's history as well as indulge in culinary delights.

To enjoy the main highlights, 12 days is ideal, with 7–8 days in Japan and 4–5 days in South Korea.

Which Country to Visit First, Japan or South Korea?

Lovely deer in Nara, JapanLovely deer in Nara, Japan

Although both Japan and South Korea are conveniently connected by flights from the US or European countries, to get more of a wow factor throughout the trip, you're highly recommended to start your journey in South Korea and then travel to Japan. Japan provides more hidden gems for you to unveil.

When choosing your international flights, if you're in the US, it usually costs less for a round trip from the west of the US, such as Los Angeles to Tokyo. From Tokyo to Seoul, it takes about 2½ hours and usually costs about 200 USD per ticket.

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A 12-Day Classic South Korea and Japan Itinerary: Explore the Highlights of Both Countries

This itinerary covers the major highlights of South Korea and Japan, creating a fulfilling experience full of lifetime memories.

In South Korea, you would have the chance to explore the renowned DMZ tunnels, immerse yourself in the vibrant K-pop culture, and savor delicious Korean cuisine. In Japan, you could experience kid-favored animation elements, have fun at Super Nintendo World, unwind in onsens (hot-spring baths), admire the iconic Mount Fuji, and feed friendly deer in Nara.

Here is the handpicked itinerary, for inspiration:

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  • Days 1–3: Seoul in South Korea
  • Day 4: Gyeongju
  • Days 5–7: Fly to Osaka in Japan and then take the Shinkansen to Kyoto
  • Days 8–9: Hakone
  • Days 10–12: Tokyo

Start your wonderful trip in the energetic capital city of Seoul, South Korea. Stroll around the history-filled Gyeongbokgung Palace while wearing a hanbok to take memorable photos, explore the DMZ and its tunnels to learn about wartime stories and cherish the hard-won peace, attend an exclusive K-pop dancing class with a professional choreographer to groove with your teenage kids, and sample delicious Korean food, such as bibimbap and Korean fried chicken.

Head to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of South Korea. You could visit Bulguksa Temple, which has thousands of years of history, and stay for a night in a Hanok hotel to experience authentic Korean accommodation.

Continue your trip in the impressive medieval capital of Kyoto in Japan.

  • For families with teenagers, you could dress up like a ninja to learn about the techniques and weapons from a ninja master. Many fathers and sons among our family clients have enjoyed this activity. Feeding the friendly deer in Nara could also be a great family moment.
  • For couples, you could stroll through Fushimi Inari Shrine while wearing a kimono to admire the orange-red torii and gain an understanding of the history of the Japanese shrine. Have afternoon tea with a geisha and get an insight into the geisha culture with a story-telling explanation from an expert.

Take the Shinkansen to Hakone, which is home to onsens. Stay at a ryokan with an onsen to experience traditional Japanese accommodation. We would help you to select handpicked family-friendly or couple-friendly ryokans out of thousands. Generally, a traditional ryokan has 5–10 rooms, so it could easily be booked up. We suggest that you make a reservation at least 3 months in advance.

Complete your trip in Tokyo, the top city of Japan, which perfectly blends history and modernity. Wander through the Asakusa district to experience the Edo vibe and make sushi with the help of an experienced chef. For anime lovers, you could buy your favorite anime products in Akihabara and have a happy family time at Pokémon Center, the Ghibli Museum, or J-World Tokyo.

Taking a day trip to view the iconic Mount Fuji from Tokyo is another highlight.

Let us help you plan your trip! Contact us and we will create a trip based on your group size, time, budget, interests, and other requirements.

Best Times to Visit Japan and South Korea

Cherry blossoms in Tokyo, JapanCherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan

Japan and South Korea enjoy similar weather in their four distinct seasons because of their close proximity.

The best times to visit South Korea and Japan are spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) due to the pleasant weather and more clear days. These periods offer the most captivating views in both countries, with cherry blossoms blooming in spring and vibrant autumn foliage in fall. May has fewer crowds and decreased travel costs because the cherry blossom season will have ended in all but northernmost Japan.

Summer (June to August) is hot in both countries, with the average daily high reaching 34°C (93°F). It's the rainy season as well but it doesn't rain every day and you could still enjoy your planned trip.

Winter (December to February) is cold and dry in South Korea and Japan, with an average daily high of 10°C (50°F), making it a good time to enjoy onsens and see snow monkeys bathing in hot springs. Christmas and New Year are extremely busy in both countries and hotels are easily booked up. Therefore, we suggest that you plan ahead at least 3–6 months in advance for a festive-season stay.

Insider tips: For family groups who usually travel in the summer or winter vacation, June and January are recommended. June is cooler and less crowded than July and August (the local summer vacation months). January has a similar climate and sightseeing experience to December but you can usually get a better deal for international flights.

To make the best of travel opportunities at any time of the year, let us know your interests and requirements, and we'll take care of everything.

How Much Does a 12-Day Trip to Japan and South Korea Cost?

Wearing hanbok in Seoul, South KoreaWearing hanbok in Seoul, South Korea

A 12-day trip to Japan and South Korea costs about US$7,000–8,000 per person based on a group of 3–5 people.

  • Private touring in Japan costs about US$350–500 per day per person, and the cost in South Korea is about US$400–500 per day per person, including 4-star hotels, a full-day itinerary, tickets for attractions, private cars, and private guides.
  • Direct flights from Seoul to Osaka are about US$100–150.

Our travel expert will customize your trip based on your requirements, and make the most of your money.

Do I Need a Visa to Visit Japan and South Korea?

Nationals of many countries are exempt from needing a visa to enter Japan and South Korea, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Most travelers could stay in Japan without a visa for 90 days.

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Get Inspired with Some Popular Itineraries

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